The horn grows by a cub cannot become an obstacle because older cows grow horn. Natural endowments in Nigeria, particularly, Ndokwa nation cannot become a thorn on the flesh. Ndokwa nation is enriched with petroleum resources which have attracted the attention of governments and oil companies to the region for extraction.
Nigeria has benefited greatly from the resources of the region. The oil companies are swimming the pool of pleasure as a result of Ndokwa East and Ndokwa West Local Government Areas natural gift. Meanwhile, the region is neglected by both the government and the oil companies.
Just as there is no visible government projects to justify her contributions to the national coffers, the oil firms decline to fulfill her corporate social responsibility while exploiting the region. Is it a crime for the soil to grow weeds? No. Ndokwa nation has not committed a crime to host oil companies.
In a chat with News Desk Paper crew, an indigene of Okpa-Oluchi who was adversely affected by the operations of Sterling Oil Exploration and Energy Production (SEEPCO), Mr. Chibuzor Ikwuobodo revealed how trouble started in community following the presence of SEEPCO.
Okpai-Oluch is located in the Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State. It is an oil producing community. There are so many oil companies operating there. Like Agip who has been there for long. They operated peacefully. The community hosted them without giving them any trouble.
Recently, about ten years ago, Sterling Oil Company came into the land. That is where the trouble started. They have been desecrating the land. There are many evidences against them. You see them today barged into people’s land without doing the necessary things; many issues.
What is the attitude of your people towards the companies?
The community practices individual land tenure system. Meanwhile, we have a King who is the ruler. We also have a body called the ‘CDC’, GMOU – an agreement between the community and the company before actual operations.
From your point of view, how has the companies fulfilled their social responsibilities?
The oil companies, Sterling Global in particular, have fulfilled about 30% of its corporate responsibilities; while the other 70%, I don’t know. Even the 30% they fulfilled is less compared to the trouble they caused.
At this point, are you telling the press there is rift between the SEEPCO and its host?
Yes, trouble I say is the condition there. Everybody knows that drilling oil is a serious business. You see them flaring gas always. Majorly, the community – Okpai Oluchi as mentioned, there is a buried pipeline that ran through the community belonging to the same company – Sterling.
You will not believe me that nobody is paid oil protection fee till date – since when the pipelines were planted. That’s about eight years ago. No one is been paid. The risk involved is unimaginable. What did they do? They just barged into anybody’s land without taking permissions. Like when they buried the pipeline, so many people were not paid.
Normally, before you dig a pipeline, they suppose to get a survey permit. And, in getting that, they should know how many landlords they need to settle. And, if need be, they relocate or evacuate them. You will see things yourself if you go the community. It is in tandem presently.
Has the government done anything to right the wrongs?
Anyway, talking about government’s disposition toward the people and the company, the government has delegates. I will say that the government officials there don’t really know what is going on because the Field Representatives each time they are sent down here, I guess in one way or the other, they know how to work around. The company buy them over and they go back to give wrong reports.
Invariably, we have a regulatory body and other agencies who ought to meet at monthly basis for checks and all that. But believe me, since they dug the pipelines, no maintenance has been done. Barely eight years ago, we are already experiencing serious threats like the case in question – oil spillage from a buried oil pipeline.
Imagine how deep a buried pipeline must have been. For it to emit visibly on earth’s surface tells that the ground is socked. Sterling Oil Company does not carry out proper clean up. What did they do? The company calls their staffs who are welders.
I don’t know come, but they are not certified for such pipeline welding jobs. I put it to you that they are not. They just called them that day. We noticed oil spillage between 3-4pm. All we saw was JTF, and excavator together with a few staff; just barged into the area and started digging.
No proper safety measures were take place. No ruling out. I don’t even know whether the flow pipe was shut down. They just mounted an excavator and started digging. Such incidence happened in Lagos. The same machinery they use.
They wanted to carry out maintenance like this, dig that and the next thing is an explosion – iron to iron. Little spark, and so many lives were lost. They did the same thing day. Precisely, on the February 22, 2022.
No safety measure was taken. They could not even say, okay, occupants, please move back or try to evacuate some people.
They just went there and started digging. Landlords were not contacted. Digging deeper, well, I am surprised as the incident is not mentioned in the oil monitoring platform. Meanwhile, it was captured.
How are you deeply affected?
Eventually, I have been involved in one way or the other as the company’s staff. I was Human Resources/ Administrative Officer for over ten years. Because of the incidence, and me being in the picture, I started experiencing infringement of rights. The company started using power tussle on me.
At first, I was asked to relinquish all my job roles which I did. Threats, here and there. It’s a long story. I won’t want to go into too many details.
What is your thought on oil spillage?
Oil spillage is a serious issue. I wonders why it’s not given utmost attention in Nigeria. It affects the climate and the eco-system. Go around the world, all the news is about fixing the climate. If I tell you how much the country spent in the past trying to maintain or repair or whatever to the climate, you will really marvel.
The last project on remediation, Federal Government has to embark on planting 100, 000 mangroves which amount to billions of naira; just to plant them. Who then, destroyed the mangroves? We have mangroves in Delta State because Delta State is very rich in the way back. Presently, the oil spills have practically reduced the mangroves down by 70%. And, you know very well what the mangrove does.
It helps to rehabilitate the earth. It helps when there is a spillage to heal the land. But, these days, there is no mangrove. So, how could the earth yield back its nutrients? Our foodstuffs, fishes, animals have been badly affected. Even our life expectancy has drastically reduced as a result of oil exploitation.
We are facing oil exploitation, rather than exploration. The companies came here for business. But now, it’s exploitation. It has become exploitation because they are only after their personal gain.
From your experience, do you think the companies are not professionals?
Like the company in question, you see an India man who practically knows nothing will spend over ten years in Nigeria heading a company. What does he know? No handle over, no human capacity development; nothing.
I put it to you that if proper investigation is carried out, only five percent of the occupants would be able to produce an expert quota. Expert quota is the right for you to be in another man’s country. Ask them to produce it, and if they can, I will give them a round of applause.
What is your expectation from the government?
In government axis, I will want them to checkmate the oil companies properly. There is what is called monitoring and regulatory oil body. They should carry out their duties as assigned. On the oil and gas, there is what is called an extant laws which comprises of national and international laws like the Paris Agreement and all.
They should try to obey at least 80% if not the 100%, then it will be acceptable. But these days, they don’t care. Whatever they do, they go scot free.
The companies damned on Federal Government’s laws, oil and gas laws, international laws as a result of poor monitoring bodies. So, the federal government should try as much as possible; the templates online, the information be passed across. Attention be given once there is a cry.
Imagine, many years Nigeria found her oil, till date, we are still facing the impact shell left behind. Shell are no longer on the land. They have gone onshore but the damage they caused we are still facing it till date.
See the Bogul Oil field, millions of naira was allotted to them over oil spillage for the two communities for the damages already caused, even that money could not fix it. Here in Ndokwa land – East and West Local Government Areas, we have been producing rich oil. The Ndokwa East to be precise produces the OKWUIBOME-OIL, very corrosive, and rich. We have many oil spills there. Over twelve spillage to be precise.
Clean up is another major issue. There should be a body to monitor the conducts of the oil companies. I wonder where it is done to carry out a clean up once in a life time. The impact of oil on the land not even water now. Before you can clean it, it will take a minimum of ten years for just a spill. But you see these companies, here they just come, if there is an oil spill, they don’t even take away the soil.
What would you do if nothing is done to address the demands and aspirations of your people?
Well, I am a very young man and you know that anger, sometimes cannot be easily contained. I am displaced of my job since the month of May. Why? I committed no offense. I have many affidavits sworn on this issue. I have evidences against them. How can you say I resigned without a paper? Where is that done?
They should show me prove of my resignation letter. Let me tell you a story. The company gave a letter acknowledging my resignation letter which I never wrote. Okay, I received it but they suppose to do a pay off. I now gave an instruction that the pay off should be channeled into the federal government’s coffers.
I signed it so that they should use that money to come for joint investigation. My pay off is worth over N36 million. That was the only reason the oil and gas committee came for an inspection exercise on July 07. After that, I waited one whole month to no response.
Letters were sent, finally on September 05, we were invited for a meeting. What was the meeting about? They said they want to know the true position of things. We talked there.
We discussed well with an agreement reached. Yet, nothing was done. Several letters were sent informing them of the upcoming flood. I wonder where the company got their guts from. I am an indigene.
I am their host. I am their landlord. As a fact, their major landlord both as Oil Field and as well by pipeline. There is what is called pipeline landlord. How can you be called so many names of pipeline landlord and you don’t get paid for it. The dangers associated with it, less than 50 metres away from my building. I have been patient very well.
I have been exercising the patience. I am a family man. Six months gone without a salary. Most of my properties have been sold, starting from my vehicle, my building materials among others, just to survive. And, I am still mute.
I gave an instruction for them to give the pay-off to the federal government to carry out joint investigations, and the next thing I hear was a letter of invitation from Delta State Ministry oil and gas asking me to come over for a meeting.
The ministry claims it wants to know the true position of things. What true position of things? Now they have known the true position of things; what have they done? Where is my money? Where is the compensation? Where is the damages?